4D scan of foetus of a mother who smoked up to 14 cigarettes a day (top) and foetus of a non-smoking mother (bottom)
These 4D scans appear to show unborn babies grimace when their mother’s light up.
Pregnant women have long been urged to give up smoking due to the huge affects it has on an unborn babies including premature birth, respiratory problems, and even cot death.
Researchers now believe they can show the effects using images from 4D scans and encourage women to give up smoking in pregnancy.
Dr Nadja Reissland has studied moving 4D scan images and recorded thousands of tiny movements in the womb.
She monitored 20 mothers attending the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, four of whom smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day.
After studying their scans at 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks, she detected that foetuses whose mothers smoked continued to show significantly higher rates of mouth movement and self-touching than those carried by non-smokers.
Foetuses usually move their mouths and touch themselves less as they gain more control the closer they get to birth.
The pilot study, which Dr Reissland hopes to expand with a bigger sample, indicated that babies carried by smokers may have delayed development of the central nervous system.
The research, conducted by Durham and Lancaster University, is published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.
Dr Reissland, from Durham’s Psychology Department, said: “A larger study is needed to confirm these results and to investigate specific effects, including the interaction of maternal stress and smoking.”
She believed that videos of the difference in pre-birth development could help mothers give up smoking.
But she was against demonising mothers and called for more support for them to give up.